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Factsheet:

Employee engagement

Resource summary

This factsheet was last updated in December 2014.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a concept that has become increasingly mainstreamed into management thought over the last decade. It is generally seen as an internal state of being – both physical, mental and emotional – that brings together earlier concepts of work effort, organisational commitment, job satisfaction and ‘flow’ (or optimal experience). Typical phrases used in employee engagement writing include discretionary effort, going the extra mile, feeling valued and passion for work.

Numerous definitions of engagement exist, each with their different emphases. One of the most enduring is that from the Utrecht University group of occupational psychologists. This measures work engagement, which has three elements:

  • vigour (energy, resilience and effort)
  • dedication (for example, enthusiasm, inspiration and pride)
  • absorption (concentration and being engrossed in one’s work).

The strength of this is in its focus on a specific physical and psychological state of being. However, it misses another aspect that is often seen as a central element of employee engagement, namely being aware of business context and understanding the line of sight between one’s job role and the purpose and objectives of the organisation.

In our work with Kingston Business School on creating an engaged workforce, the CIPD has brought these elements together, defining employee engagement as “being positively present during the performance of work by willingly contributing intellectual effort, experiencing positive emotions and meaningful connections to other”. This definition gives three dimensions to employee engagement:

  • Intellectual engagement – thinking hard about the job and how to do it better
  • Affective engagement – feeling positively about doing a good job
  • Social engagement – actively taking opportunities to discuss work-related improvements with others at work.

It is also helpful to think about what aspects of their work employees are engaged with. Our research on the locus of engagement, highlights that in particular, employee engagement can be directed towards: the role job itself; relationships with colleagues; the organisation as a whole; and in many cases, people outside the organisation.

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  • What is employee engagement?
  • What are the benefits of employee engagement?
  • Is there a dark side to employee engagement? 
  • How to build an engaged workforce
  • The engagement levels of British employees
  • Ongoing debates and the future of employee engagement
  • CIPD viewpoint
  • Useful contacts
  • References
  • Further reading.

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